Pluck 'em! My 91-year-old mother fondly remembers the summers of the late 1920s and '30s, when she and her siblings would catch Japanese beetles by the jarful. Back then Philadelphia had large infestations of them. We still have Japanese beetle problems, but not nearly as bad as when they were first spotted in the U.S. on iris bulbs in a nursery near Riverton in 1916. At that time, populations were very high in our area because we were close to the source, there were no known predators, and it's likely the beetles had been here for some time before they were discovered. Today, birds and skunks eat the grubs, which hatch from larvae and turn into adult beetles that plague our lawns in late fall and early spring by eating the roots of the grass and causing large bare spots. They also eat field crops and ornamental plants. Milky spore, a naturally occurring bacterium in concentrated powder form, can be used to control grubs. Apply when the ground is warm; only one treatment is necessary. I did this 10 years ago and have never needed to do it again. The few grubs I get are eaten by birds. Adult beetle activity usually peaks in July and August. Feeding beetles are best controlled by picking them off whatever they're eating and putting them in a jar filled with soapy water. If there are too many to hand pick, natural products such as neem or pyrethrins can be applied. Recent research has shown that beetle traps with pheromones inside work best when located several hundred feet from the garden — not in it, as the lure seems to attract ever more beetles who bypass the trap and head straight to the garden to eat. They can ravage a vast array of plants, including roses and sassafras trees. One of their natural predators is the anchor bug, closely related to the stink bug. Who would have guessed?
Repeat and ... repeat again. Planting the same crop in succession is a great way to make sure you'll get the quantities you need for preserving. Staggering vegetable planting also assures that you'll have a long, continuous stream of food rather than lots all at once. You can replant cucumbers, squash, miniature pumpkins, and romaine lettuce right now, as well as the perennial flowers you didn't get to earlier in the season.
Gather more seed. This past week I cut back seed pods from columbine. I like to scatter some of the seeds in the garden so I'll have plants again next year and then harvest the rest. Put the pods head down in a large plastic bag so the seeds fall out as they dry. (I leave the bag open in an area where the pods can dry fully.) Once that's done, the pods can be sprayed different colors or left natural and used for holiday arrangements. You can also start harvesting money plant. (If you wait too long to do this, the quality of the dried plant is diminished.) Lay the stems out on a table, stand in a large container or hang upside down until thoroughly dried. Retrieve the seeds — silver disks that look like coins — by removing the two sheaths that protect them. High-quality money plant will last for several years. You can combine the columbine and money plant seeds and scatter the whole lot in wooded areas to continue the cycle of both plants. Each provides a richly colorful bloom in the spring. Fill in those bare spots. After removing the last of the dried spring bulb foliage from the garden, you can close the gaps with zinnias, cosmos, cleome, and other sun-loving favorites. If your blank spots are in partial shade, fill in with coleus, Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender,' caladiums, begonias, colocasia, and alocasia. I like to add houseplants to the mix, things like crotons, containers of nonhardy cactus/succulents, and palm trees. Of course, these would need to be brought back into the house before frost, but till then, they help create a robust garden visual with a tropical feel.
Hang 'em high — and low. Orchids love being outdoors in summer. Our horticulture staff at the Ambler Arboretum at Temple University hangs the orchid containers from trees, being sure to wrap strips of burlap around the trees where the pots are hung. This simple system keeps the pots in place and prevents them from rubbing against the trunk. When walking through this concentration of orchids, in the courtyard outside our Cottage Complex, you're enveloped by the luscious fragrance of happy plants. The orchids thrive in the humidity and ample air circulation of the outdoors — and look very cool, besides.